A fried of mine posted something on her Facebook wall this morning, which struck a personal tone with me. I asked her if she would mind if I shared her words on my blog. As you read through her thoughts today, you will understand why this is so important.
I am keeping my friend anonymous, though I will tell you, she is a very strong person, inside and out. She has no problem speaking her mind. She is a fellow Hodgkin’s survivor like me, so I will tell you, she knows how to fight. She is also Chinese, a mother, and a wife. She is also a citizen of the United States.
“The first time I was called a Chink.
I didn’t even know I was called that until couple of years later – after I had learned enough English to really comprehend what had transpired.
It happened when I was 12.5 years old. I had just immigrated to the US weeks earlier with my parents and brother. I didn’t know a lick of English, not even the letters of the alphabet. One day during recess, a white girl in my 6th grade class gave me a folded written note and snickered while putti…ng it in my hand. A white boy nearby gave her a puzzled and then disgusted look; I guess he knew what she is and what she was capable of doing. I vividly remember both of their facial expressions from that day.
Naively, I took the folded up paper and kept it, thinking it was a gesture of friendliness. I wanted to keep it and read it when I have learned some English.
Months and years went by before I came upon the box of folded up notes from various classmates. I grew sad when reading that white girl’s note, the sadness turned into a mix of sadness, confusion, and anger.
She had the guts to sign her name on the note, to make sure I knew it was from her. We were now in middle school, and she was now BFF with someone who I considered a very good friend. I told this other white friend about the note, but she brushed it aside and said something to the effect of “she was young and probably didn’t mean to say that, and probably didn’t mean anything by it.”
Whether Sarah McF. meant it or not, she did write the note and called me that racial epithet, and I hold her responsible.”
My heart broke for my friend. I thought back to my childhood, and how, even though I am Caucasian, I also happen to have “almond eyes” which is a common trait among the Asian population. All through elementary school, I had been called “chink” because of my Chinese appearance. And I knew the kids were being malicious about it.
But as a parent, when I made the decision to adopt, and chose China, there were preparations and education to be completed to help adjust to life as a bi-racial family. For the most part, given the school district I lived in, which happened to be so diverse, I thought the issue of race would only come up as an adult for her, in regard to dating, if at all.
Instead, one afternoon, my daughter, age 10 at the time, exited the bus and told me that the bus driver wanted to talk to me. He told me that my daughter had given a boy a bloody nose. The driver also acknowledged that everything had been resolved. Though I had several concerns.
I had been campaigning for school board, and one of my platforms was dealing with bullying. Though my wife (at the time) objected, I insisted that steps had to be followed through with the school, and if necessary, discipline to be administered, for what had happened. Yes, I was selling out my daughter. But I was not about to be a hypocrite and definitely not a “not my kid” parent. What she did was wrong. That is, until I heard from her, why it happened.
Both of my daughters are of Chinese ethnicity, and they are proud of their heritage. And on that particular day, a mean-spirited boy, decided to make a negative comment about China to my daughter, and she let him have it with a closed straight fist to the nose.
As a former victim of bullying in school myself, I have always told my daughters that I will always stand behind them if they defend themselves, no matter how. They are forbidden from striking the first blow or insult. But they may respond however they see fit and I will stand by them.
We are in 2017, not the 1950’s. And having been born in the 1960’s, I have no problem saying that anyone from my generation, if they use bigoted language or participate in any form of racial acts of hatred, it is because they have been taught. Perhaps my parents’ generation may have been exposed enough to the racial hatred to have accepted that way of life, but no one, no one from my generation should be accepting of that behavior.
Yet, here we are, in 2017, and racism and bigotry is still going strong. And while the current government administration is not helping, and quite possible enabling the increase of racial tensions, the fact is, racism and bigotry has been around for decades no matter who has been in government. But definitely what does not help, is enacting laws that are based solely on ethnicity, especially as one being pursued that is part of a ban of a certain culture, but written in such a way that it affects “naturalized” citizens – in other words, children born elsewhere, but citizens of the United States, like my daughters. A law such as was attempted to be enacted recently, definitely would have had a negative impact on bringing our country together, and in fact, making our citizens of various cultures, at an increased risk of harassment, discrimination, and bigotry.
Comedian Dennis Leary quipped, ““Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.”
I was hoping for better as we continued into the 21st century, instead we are going backward. We are going backward because many believe that they now have a legitimacy having been given a voice. We are going backward because so many still do not take a stand against racism. We are going backward because this behavior is being accepted.
The fact is, whether it happened to people back then, or happens to them now, these verbal and physical wounds last forever. They have a permanent impact on people. We, the United States, are better than that.